May 9 Session
Having convinced Captain Drachma to let them use The Little Jack as an escort vessel for the Nasrad merchant in exchange for a Valuan passport, the party set out for the South Danalii Strait.
As the merchant had feared, the ships encountered The Blackbeard along the way, and Captain Baltor attacked them without hesitation. He did not expect the Little Jack to have a competent battle crew, though, and the Blackbeard was deep-skied. When the ships reached the Strait, their merchant client handed over the passport as agreed, and also signed an affidavit which would allow Captain Drachma to claim the bounty on Captain Baltor. The party rode the glow of victory all the way back to Sailor’s Island.
(Seriously, we just tested the ship combat rules and not a lot else that evening. Not that it took long – Jessica didn’t want to move the plot along much further until we thought everyone else could be there.)
May 30 session
While Captain Drachma collected his bounty and re-provisioned his ship for a trip to Valua, the party made their own preparations. Jessica found a buyer for the Valuan ceremonial pistol, deciding that the potential for a higher price in Valua proper was not worth the inherent risk of talking to a lot of Valuans on their home turf. She also leased a storage space for a two-month contract, and instructed the party to leave behind everything they didn’t need and anything that might draw negative attention to them (e.g. redundant gear, her dress clothes, Nazar’s helmet puppet). Lastly, she went and bought two full changes of clothes for herself and Hanna (who is her size), just to be overcautious about not being distinctive.
Captain Drachma met them for dinner and dropped a large unwieldy package at Nazar’s feet. While the bulk of the bounty was payable via a note of credit he’d be able to use to get his harpoon cannon, some of the other smaller bounties were actually paid out in trade goods for which he had no use. The most remarkable was a greatbow, which naturally went to Hanna. There was also a bolt of white samite, a pearl brooch, and a tin of rare Nasran spices. Drachma instructed them to turn in early; it would be a full day and night’s sailing to Valua, and they wanted to be there early on that morning. The Grand Fortress’s gate only opens for a couple of hours in the morning and in the evening; if they were not already queued up by the time it opened in the morning, odds were they would not be admitted until evening – time they could not afford to lose.
The route from Sailor’s Island to Valua was too well-traveled for them to encounter any trouble, and as dawn struggled to break through the thick cloud cover, the Grand Fortress loomed from one edge of their vision to the other. Navy vessels patrolled the forming queue and inspected the ships for contraband. It also appeared as if they were actively trying to goad the Captain and party into misbehaving, but none of them bit – even Drachma kept his curmudgeonliness to acceptable levels. The Valuans were apparently so disheartened by their good behaviour that they failed to notice the passport wasn’t actually for their ship. They moved on, and when the gate finally swung open, they sailed through.
The city was fronted by the decadent Palace, and was visibly divided into upper- and lower-class regions. The party stopped for a barely-palatable breakfast in the first tavern they could find, and listened to the conversations. The native patrons were thoroughly ground down by their impoverished lives, and it showed in their posture and voices. The party learned little besides that the piratical execution was tomorrow morning, and where to find the colosseum where it would be happening.
They went to examine the colosseum to see how it would affect their rescue plans. So intent were they on this that Hanna almost didn’t see the street urchin snatching Jessica’s purse – and absolutely didn’t see that hers and Nazar’s had already been taken! She cried out and chased after the boy, and Tyrhe followed without any initial idea who the target was.
After eventually catching the boy and literally carrying him back to the rest of the party, Jessica attempted to calm him down and establish they weren’t his enemies, while Nazar waved coins in his face and promised them to him in exchange for information. The boy never gave his name, but was able to tell them that the rest of the crew was going to be held inside the Grand Fortress until morning, when they would be transported via monorail (so THAT’s what that weird-looking thing was!) directly into the colosseum. He also mentioned that what was now the sewer system for Valua had initially been a series of catacombs, that they ran pretty much under the entire city, and he often used them himself to hide from pursuers. The party talked him into sketching them a map, but when they asked him to join them as their guide, he got terrified and refused. Further attempts to convince him caused him to panic, break Tyrhe’s grab on him with a quick kick to the ankle, and take off at top speed.
The boy was more familiar with the city, and more reckless in his flight (i.e. he was using the Run move action), so it actually took a bit to catch him, but Tyrhe finally got in front of him, and Hanna saw and immediately took the opportunity for a clear shot at the boy. The boy collapsed, but his yelp of pain got the attention of some Valuan guards. The party actually fled for a short distance before Jessica suddenly stopped and turned around. She truthfully said that they had been chasing the boy for taking their purses, and falsely claimed the only reason they fled the guards was panic instinct. The guards agreed to let the party be on their way in exchange for the boy. They were not exactly happy with the offer, for different reasons, but they couldn’t risk getting arrested BEFORE pulling off their big heist, and let the guards take the boy away.
One of the things the boy had pointed out to them was that there was a large sewer grate in the center of the colosseum, the better to drain blood and keep the floor clean. It would be quite possible to approach the colosseum from below, tear out the grate, and guide their crewmates through the sewers to emerge near the docks, where they could board a passenger ship and (probably) be on their way out of Valua before anyone figured out they were immediately making a break for it rather than hiding out in the sewers for days first.